Fig and Almond Cake with Mascarpone Cream

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I have recently moved into a new house. A desire to do a bit of nesting, coupled with just having bought yet another cookbook, the baking book Honey and Jam, led me to make a cake.

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Whilst trying to orientate myself in the surrounding streets of very similar grand Georgian terraces, I popped into the local corner shop. I went in with pretty low expectations, banking on just getting milk and eggs. However, I was confronted with quails eggs, cashew nuts and several different types of brie. So I bought some duck eggs, my favourite brand of local butter and some cashew nuts for good measure.

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The flavours in this cake were inspired by some ice cream I had recently at Swoon Gelato: caramelised fig and mascarpone. The duck eggs gave it a richness, and the butter tinged it yellow, and I added some ground almonds to the sponge. I topped the cake with sliced figs, fig jam and mascarpone cream.

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Brunch is becoming quite a thing in Bristol. So it’s only proper to get on board. There are many things about going out for brunch that appeal. There’s no bleary-eyed drudgery of attempting to make it out for breakfast, especially as I find it nigh on impossible to leave the house without some sort of sustenance. It has the sort of relaxed casualness that you always wish could happen at an evening meal out, but never quite does. There is also a jubilant sense of infinite possibility: brunch could be followed by coffee, cake, or, lets face it, wine.

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When I first moved to Bristol, I was obsessed with trying every restaurant, bar and café that was even casually mentioned, by anyone, as worth a visit. I had a (very) long list of places, which was constantly being updated. Now I have rationalised this somewhat, and have narrowed it down a shorter (but only slightly) list of my favourite places. Poco is near the top. It’s in Stokes Croft, the area of Bristol famous for that kerfuffle with Tesco, and all the Banksys. Occupying a pretty nondescript corner, with a few rickety tables clinging to the pavement outside, a first time visitor might wonder what all the fuss is about. But step inside, and you’ll soon see.

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The atmosphere is that of a casual Spanish tapas bar, with a tiny open kitchen surrounded by clusters of bar stools. Poco was founded by chef Tom Hunt, who champions ethical, local produce, and lets these ingredients shine through with simple, sympathetic cooking. This view is demonstrated in his cookbook, The Natural Cook, one of my current favourites. Going inside Poco is like stepping into the cookbook, complete with the same blue-rimmed enamel hipster plates – which, upon noticing, I had to suppress a squeak of excitement. I visited Poco to conduct some very loosely termed ‘networking’ (any excuse for brunch) with the lovely Rin, a writer and fellow Instagram obsessed foodie. We opted for the famous Poco brunch dish, consisting of exotically spiced sausages, fluffy scrambled eggs, sourdough toast and fiery Moroccan harissa. This dish definitely deserves the cult status that it has achieved, and exemplifies the simple approach to quality ingredients for which Poco is famous.

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Read some of Rin’s writing here.

Katie and Kim’s Kitchen

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What I love about Bristol is its vibrant, constantly changing food scene. New restaurants are constantly popping up all over the place. There’s always a new street food craze or pop up restaurant just around the corner. I live near a pretty incredible string of independent restaurants serving food from every corner of the world, as well as many promoting fantastic local produce. The most exciting and eagerly-awaited restaurant opening (at least for me) is Katie and Kim’s Kitchen. Katie and Kim’s Kitchen started life as a food blog ( Through being an avid reader of their blog since I moved to Bristol, I have followed the exciting developments in the duo’s life. They won the British Street Food awards last year, serving cheddar and rosemary scones out of a converted horsebox. Katie and Kim’s Kitchen is their latest venture – a permanent residence in Picton Street, Montpelier.

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For the sake of food blogger networking, and general curiosity, I thought it was high time I checked it out. I wandered down with my housemate, Izzy. We were initially just going for coffee and a bit of cake, but one glance at the daily changing menu chalked up on the blackboard and we ended up having lunch. We went for the cheese and rosemary scones that put Katie and Kim on the map, served warm with bacon, poached eggs and spinach. The scones were absolutely incredible: rich, buttery and crumbly, with a tangy undercurrent of cheese and a delicate whiff of rosemary. Combined with salty bacon and perfectly cooked, oozing poached eggs, it was a pretty sublime experience.

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But we didn’t stop there. There were freshly baked chocolate éclairs and wobbly custard tarts piled high on the counter. For the sake of research, we had to try both. The chocolate éclairs were delicious – just the right ratio of cream, feather-light pastry and smooth chocolate ganache. But it was the custard tarts that won it for me: buttery pastry with a rich, trembling custard filling. We were given an extra one each to take home too, and they were just as good the next day. Katie and Kim are both lovely – naturally welcoming and generous, with a gentle wit and an infectious passion for food and local produce. They have already built up a loyal following, having only been open for a few weeks. I know it’s a cliché to say this, but I will be coming back again and again, as much for Katie and Kim’s welcoming spirit as for their delicious food.

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Cox and Baloney Vintage Tearoom


I miss many things about working in a cafe. The smell of a freshly-opened tin of coffee beans, that hisses out as you pull back the metal lid. The meringue-like foam spooned carefully onto a cappuccino. The rustle of tea leaves shaken out of a jar. The witty (if I do say so myself) banter with customers.  And not to forget the practically unlimited access to cake.


However, one thing that I don’t miss is working at the weekend. Everyone else is having a great time, and you’re at work. Helping them have a great time, but still. I relish going to a cafe in the weekend now, even if it’s to take pleasure in watching the waiters and waitresses rush around like headless chickens. What’s that long German word for it? Schadenfreude?  Even though I take slight pleasure in their stress, I always make a point of assuring them that there’s no rush, and to get to us when they’re ready.  I know what it’s like to have ten different table-fuls of people eyeing you meaningfully, all thinking they came in first.

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In a bid to make my blog more ‘out and about’, me and my camera went on a jaunt to this lovely cafe just round the corner from my house. The cafe, called Cox and Baloney Vintage Tearoom, also houses a ’boutique’, selling vintage-inspired clothes. You have to book a table just to have tea in this place on a weekend it’s so popular. There’s a wide and impressive selection of loose leaf teas, with the standard English Breakfast (although it’s named ‘Mr Darcy’) rubbing shoulders with eccentric varieties such as strawberries and cream, containing white chocolate and strawberry pieces. We (and by ‘we’ I mean me and my friends, not my camera) were heartily encouraged to go up and smell the teas, which were standing proudly on the counter in glass jars. In the end, after much sniffing and deliberating, we opted for Sir Bountiful’s Bounty – Ceylon tea combined with a slightly bizarre mix of coconut slices, chocolate drops, thistle flowers and cornflowers. It turned out to be lovely – more than a hint of coconut, with a faint whiff of fragrance from the flowers.


The cafe is famous for its afternoon tea, which comprises scones, jam, clotted cream and an assortment of cakes and sandwiches, all piled high on a vintage cake stand. There was an impressive assortment of inventive and delicious looking cakes, including lots of gluten-free options. The coconut and chocolate sponge and an orange polenta cake were serious contenders, but in the end we narrowed it down to three:  a peanut butter and chocolate cake, a cherry bakewell, and something called a ‘jewel cake’, studded with cranberries. The peanut butter cake was the winner for me, it’s one of those cakes that you’re not entirely sure how it’s made, but you instantly want to spend hours in the kitchen attempting to recreate it.

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Our experience of Cox and Baloney was very good: delicious tea and cake, polite and attentive staff all in a lovely atmosphere. The ‘vintage’ theme is so often overdone, but here it really added to the experience. We all loved the mismatched china our tea was served in, some retro to the point of garish, and I am a bit of a cutlery obsessive, so the bone-handled silverware was appreciated. I know it’s a cliche to end with this, but I will definitely be returning. Mostly because of the peanut butter cake.